That Dali feeling
Most of us have a crazy guy living in our heads, and the best we can do is tame it to sit quietly right where it is. Rajesh Parameswaran, however, is the kind of genius who let that crazy guy out to do its thing, creating fascinating little planets, and here are some of them.
This book has nine stories, described on the cover as ‘love stories’. Conspicuous by their absence are certain critical contemporary icons of ‘love’ such as red roses and going down on your knee with a diamond ring in your hand. The Infamous Bengal Ming explores a tiger’s passion for his keeper. I’m not sure whether the author intended the central theme of this story to be the potential for miscommunication (and infliction of unintended hurt) in the relationship between any two creatures, but that’s what it brought to my mind. In Four Rajeshes we journey to a village railway station in British India and once again glimpse different kinds of doomed love. Of all the stories in this book, the one I enjoyed most was the title one, funny, sad, grotesque and gripping all at once. And of all the stories in this book, the only one slightly similar to anything I’d ever read before is Bibhutibhushan Mallik’s Final Storyboard, a tale that skirts the breach between aspiring craftsperson and artist at a pinnacle of achievement.
‘Literary masterpiece’ is a handy cliché; instead I might observe that the characters in this collection are lifelike and haunting. Most are so very fictional that it’s hard to mistake them for beings that bear a resemblance to anyone living or dead. As for the lyrical and highly stylized idiom, it appears fabricated too. Each story varies in language and structure – and each is so authentically vibrant that they may well reflect real speech patterns. This was a book that reminded me, after quite a while, how much pleasure reading can give.
Rajesh Parameswaran has apparently lived in the United States ever since he was an infant. His stories are international in flavour, and I enjoyed the cameo Indians and the Indian usages he introduces in unlikely universal situations.